In a watershed moment for the Russia investigation, the New York Times is now reporting that President Trump has known Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the 2016 election as early as January 6, 2017.
With two weeks to go before he was inaugurated, then-President-elect Trump had a meeting with U.S. intelligence officials who shared classified information with Trump showing the details of the Russian campaign to interfere in the presidential election. The evidence Trump saw included text messages and emails from some of Putin’s top aides. According to the Times, Trump was “grudgingly” convinced that the evidence was sound.
The details of Wednesday night’s report sheds a helpful context on Trump’s press conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland earlier this week, in which he stated to reporters present that Putin’s denials that Russia interfered in the election were “extremely strong and powerful.”
“My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others and they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said, before pivoting to talking about Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Trump taking Putin’s side during the press conference directly contradicted the findings of the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee, which unanimously included earlier this month that not only did Putin directly order the Russian interference campaign, but that he did so in order to help Trump win.
“The Committee concurs with intelligence and open-source assessments that this influence campaign was approved by President Putin,” wrote Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) in the committee’s final report. “The Committee believes the conclusions of the [Intelligence Community Assessment] are sound.”
Although Trump has since acknowledged the Russian disinformation campaign during the 2016 election and admitted that he agreed with U.S. intelligence agencies that Putin was involved, the Times report confirms that President Trump lied and covered to the media and the public, on behalf of Vladimir Putin, for 558 days.
President Trump still denies that there was any collusion between his presidential campaign and Russian officials.
Nick Jewell is a freelance political writer, and a proud resident of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Email him at email@example.com.